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For how long do we elect the President?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by dolcedell, Mar 7, 2009.

  1. dolcedell Senior Member

    Italian
    Hello,

    1."For how long do we elect the President?"
    2."How long do we elect the President?".

    The first sentence is one of the questions from the USA Immigration and Naturalization Service English Exam.
    The second sentence is the one I always say that way.
    My question is, do they mean the same thing? Or is it a formal/informal thing? Or the second sentence is incorrect at all?

    Thanks so much!
     
  2. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Saxony-Anhalt
    German
    The second questions sounds to me as you´re asking how long the election is, e.g. from 9 am to 6 pm.
     
  3. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    1."For how long do we elect the President?" = For how long a term of office do we elect the President.
    2."How long do we elect the President?". = ? This has no particular meaning in English, other than as a somewhat odd way to express what Frank78 explained above.

    An alternative to #1 would be: What is the term of elected office for the President?
     
  4. sukepeth Junior Member

    English -American
    The first sentence start with "For" because prescriptive grammar tells us to avoid dangling prepositions, like you find in the question

    "How long do we elect the President for?

    Here, the "for" is dangling -- just hanging there all alone, not followed by anything. A big no-no according to grammar books!

    I think that in reality more people would say what I wrote. Language is always changing, and it takes some time before grammar catches up and accepts. So I think you're right in calling it a formal/informal thing, but your alternative, as Frank78 says, means something different.
     
  5. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    What are prescriptivist grammar books good for? They label something "dangling" just because it is sitting still, not dangling at all, in a position that requires more flexibility of style than the grammarian is comfortable with. :)

    A grammarian would trounce you for the text in blue, above. It is not a sentence. Naughty, naughty! :D
     

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